Rotman Commerce grad takes off with textbook buy/sell app for U of T students
When Tanguy Josz (BCom ’17) was 10 years old, he made money in his free time by shovelling his neighbours’ driveways and mowing their lawns. “This might sound a bit cliché,” he says, laughing, “but even when I was little, I liked having ownership of something that was generating revenue.”
Today, Josz is the CEO and co-founder of BookBird, an app that allows University of Toronto students to easily buy and sell used textbooks from each other. As a finance and economics student at Rotman Commerce in the Faculty of Arts & Science, Josz was frustrated by what to do with his textbooks at the end of each course.
“At the beginning of each semester, textbooks were so expensive,” he recalls. “But then at the end of the semester, they were difficult to sell.” While Facebook groups could theoretically connect him with other students who wanted to buy books, the platform’s structure and algorithms made posting books for sale ineffective and time consuming. Selling books back to the bookstore, he says, could be convenient, but resulted in recouping only a small fraction of the initial book cost. What students needed, he reasoned, was a way of exchanging books that was both convenient and cost advantageous to both buyers and sellers.
After graduating from Rotman Commerce, Josz brought that idea with him to his masters studies at HEC Paris, where he completed a certificate program in digital entrepreneurship. There, he met his BookBird co-founder William Beuil, who brought the technical expertise Josz lacked, and the two developed the idea for a mobile app to solve the textbook issue. Since they had initially conceived the project to satisfy the requirements for the six-week certificate, the pair hadn’t planned to bring the app to market. But when the director of the program agreed to invest, Josz and Beuil jumped at the chance to make their idea a reality.
Launching at the University of Toronto made sense, in part because textbook resale is more of an issue in North America than in Europe, and also because as a graduate, Josz was familiar with the U of T environment. “Before we built the app, we came back to Toronto and surveyed over 200 students at U of T,” he says, “and overwhelmingly they told us that if our app was created, it would be the number one option they would use to buy and sell their textbooks.”
After nearly a year of development, the BookBird app is ready to fly and Josz is eager for students to discover what it can do. Driven by a simple ISBN scan, the app allows students to easily post their textbooks along with pictures that document its condition. Textbooks can be listed for sale immediately or at a future date, such as the end of a course, or the beginning of a new semester. Sellers and buyers can message each other through the app, and arrange a time to meet, with payment being mediated through BookBird. In order to use the app, users must have a valid mail.utoronto.ca email address.
David Goldreich, Director of Rotman Commerce and Professor of Finance at the Rotman School, is delighted by Josz’s project. “More and more of our students are taking the knowledge they gain during their BComs and other degrees and applying it to their own entrepreneurial ventures,” he notes. “It’s terrific to see Tanguy developing a solution to a problem he encountered here at U of T and bringing it to market in a way that could benefit other students.”
Josz, who will be starting a full-time job with the Boston Consulting Group later in the year, but plans to continue working on BookBird, advises aspiring entrepreneurs to persevere and to approach their projects with an eye to both the outcome and the process. “If you have an idea early on, push as hard as you can to get it to the next level. If it doesn’t end up working out, you’ll have learned a lot. And regardless of what path you choose for your career, it’s good to show you’ve had ideas that you’ve gone out and tried to complete. At the end of the day, win or lose, it’s a great thing to have the experience.”